How to repair credit identity theft damage
Identity theft is a serious crime that has lasting and damaging financial consequences for its victims. Roughly 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, and for many of them, it takes up to a year to recover financially. Identity theft’s lingering consequences include damaged credit, being unable to obtain loans, and losing up to thousands of irrecoverable dollars. However, if individuals find that they have become victims of identity theft, they can still fight back by attempting to restore their name and credit score.
The first major step to restoring credit is to make sure that all major financial institutions are aware of identity theft. Below contains steps of who to call and what to say:
- Report the identity theft to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion separately. All three credit bureaus should be called immediately and informed of any unauthorized activities. If they are not alerted of the identity theft right away, negative notations and errors can remain on individuals’ credit scores. The bureaus will conduct their own research to determine if the accounts in question are legitimate. Individuals should also ask for a fraud alert to be issued on their credit scores, so thieves will be unable to rack up further charges.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. By doing this, individuals will help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves. The Federal Trade Commission will also forward the complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action.
- File a police report with local authorities. Victims should visit their local police station and file an ID theft claim, and the police will provide them with a detailed report within a week. Keep in mind that several police departments will not allow individuals to file a report unless they have undergone an actual financial loss. The police will need to be presented with sufficient evidence, such as unauthorized collection letters or bills and copies of counterfeit checks.
- Notify all banks, credit card companies and other involved parties of the identity theft. By doing this, the above financial organizations will flag individuals’ accounts.
The second major step to restoring credit after identity theft is to document everything pertaining to the crime. Every single conversation, letter, name, and date and time is significant and can help expedite as well as ensure a complete recovery. Below contains a list of items that should be documented from the very beginning of the investigation:
- Obtain copies of credit scores from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Once the credit scores have been obtained, individuals should go through each individual credit score and check that all information is correct. If the information is incorrect, it should be documented, and the credit bureaus should be supplied with the correct information
- Detailed notes should be made of all information, such as credit card statements and credit scores that are incorrect. All incorrect information that appears to be a result of identity theft should also be noted.
- Call logs should be kept with all credit institutions and bureaus that are contacted. By doing this, individuals will safeguard against any discrepancies that might arise later on.
- Obtain and keep all bills, statements, and any other documentation that could be related to the theft.
- Retain all copies of police reports and of any correspondences sent to credit bureaus or information providers. This information should be presented to any creditors that are acquired as a result of the theft.
- All conversations should be followed up with a certified letter restating the conversation’s details. Keeping accurate records will help to recover from identity theft because it will aid in proving any claims that might be challenged by a fraud department.
Once all parties involved have been informed, and every conversation has been documented, victims can seriously begin to restore their credit. In order to complete the process, individuals should do the following:
- All compromised accounts should be closed immediately. New account numbers, credit card numbers, and social security numbers should be obtained, if necessary.
- Dispute all unauthorized charges by calling credit card companies and banks. Most companies have a fraud dispute form that customers can fill out and file.
- Inform all debt collectors of the identity theft, and send them copies of any police reports and FTC complaints. It is illegal for bill collectors to harass and demand payment of bills that are under investigation for fraud.
- Dispute any debts in writing, and also include copies of any police reports along with the disputes. If debt collectors continue to demand payment, inform them that a complaint about them will be filed with the state Attorney General.
- Consider hiring an attorney. In many instances, an experienced attorney can expedite identity theft recovery because they are able to speak to creditors directly.
- Finally, it is important for victims of identity theft to maintain good payment history. In order to do this, they must make all payments on time, check all of their financial statements frequently, and request their credit scores regularly. Victims should also consider investing in an identity theft protection service to ensure that it does not occur again.
Identity theft recovery is a daunting task that can take up to a year or more to accomplish. However, if victims are diligent, meaning that they record everything related to the theft and report it in a timely manner, then they should be able to recover quicker. If individuals fail to aggressively recover their credit, then they will face canceled credit, low credit scores and bad reputations.